“Bring me the head of Illthain…”
Starday, 15 Sunsebb CY 595 (continued)
Having wrapped everything up with the Greyhawk Watch, the party gets their desperately-needed rest. In the morning, while Jane prepares her spells, Long Fist visits the temple of Heironeous and Riddle and Tyrrell go shopping for equipment and a scroll of greater teleportation. Tyrrell attempts to find out anything he can about Lordren, but comes up with nothing to show for it.
While at the Temple, Long Fist has the unholy club destroyed and, for a fee, communes with Heironeous. Most of his questions are personal in nature, but he does uncover some important information about Allustan and Illthain that will impact the party’s next steps.
In the meantime, Scar-Eater digs through his own knowledge about copper dragons, assuming that is what Illthain actually is. Jane also scrys Allustan and in the water, a circular room appears. The floor slopes downward to the center from all directions like a funnel. Around the walls are horizontal bands of geometric patterns very much like the patterns that lined the opening corridors of the Whispering Cairn, but here it is more pristine, newer. At the bottom of the funnel there is a sparkling globe of crackling lightning enclosing a motionless figure – Allustan. A metallic spike protruding from the ceiling touches the globe.
When the party convenes again, Long Fist relates what he learned in the commune. He says Allustan is still alive, but that he is not in Diamond Lake, and that Illthain is “very nearby” Diamond Lake. When he asked if the party’s next step in the path towards stopping the Age of Worms was Diamond Lake, he was told, “Very nearby.”
Jane proceeds to tell the others about her scrying and Riddle immediately wants to use the scrolls of greater teleport to take the party directly to the room she described. However, the others are worried that this may not be a good idea. Riddle decides to risk another divination to come to a decision. After what happened last time, Jane asks, “Are you sure?” but Riddle sees no other way to decide.
After casting the spell, Riddle says, “I’m trying to follow your guidance. Should I use this greater teleport scroll to go to Allustan, or should I use it to go to Diamond Lake?”
The Vaati respond, “By visiting your mentor, you leave the rear door unguarded. Begin near Diamond Lake and remove the current threat.”
Riddle uses the scroll to teleport the party to their old abandoned shack near Diamond Lake. They are pleased to find that the things they hid there remain undisturbed. Since Riddle will not recharge his spellpower until after midnight, it seems they have some time to kill. Jane does a circle dance on Illthain, and learns that the dragon is uninjured, and in the direction of the Whispering Cairn. Afterwards, Jane announces she must leave them for a bit, but if she has not returned in three hours they should send to her.
Jane shifts into Athena and flies to the area of the old Bronzewood Lodge, which was once her home. She notes a strangeness in the air as she travels – a distinct lack of birdlife, especially. Attributing this to Illthain’s presence in the region, she focuses on her task at hand.
Landing, she shifts into her Bast form and digs a shallow trench in the earth with her paws. Shifting back to the human girl, she sheds all of her equipment and clothing, lays down in the trench, and pulls the dirt in around her until she is almost buried. She whispers a spell she has never performed before. After ten minutes, the spell is complete, and she is one with nature.
Jane sinks into the earth and feels her veins become one with the roots around her, her flesh melds with the dirt, her bones become stone and her blood become life-giving water. Closing her eyes, but opening her awareness, Jane senses a natural world sinking beneath the corruptive weight of a future that must not come to pass, a future already becoming the present, darkening the sun, drowning the land, and birthing abominations. She senses, in the water flowing through the soil and now through her body, power: lingering power from her distant source. She also senses the nearby presence of six powerful creatures beholden to prophecy yet empowered to foil it, touched by the gods in the past, present, and future. Among them, there is a powerful, unnatural alien with ancient bonds to forgotten worlds and distant planes; and there is the Daughter of the Storm, she who, in the past, demanded power for herself, and must do so again or the sacrifice will have been meaningless; she is more than the land, the skies, and the sea; she is the natural world and the righteousness of its sentient protectors. She is her own legacy.
Gasping, the ritual complete, Jane opens her eyes to the usually gloomy afternoon. After a moment, she climbs from her trench, puts her clothes and equipment back on, shifts into her eagle form, and flies back to the others.
Sunday, 16 Sunsebb CY 595
The party rises and prepares to pursue their quarry. Jane uses the incense of meditation to prepare all of her spells to maximum effect.
Archie scouts ahead as they move toward the Whispering Cairn. They make their way up the slight rise in the grounds before the opening to the Cairn. In the clearing there are abundant signs of the dragon’s presence. Trees have been raked to shreads. Huge ruts scar the earth. The cairn’s entrance appears to have been dissolved by acid. It is a scene of pure animalistic rampage. Archie notes six wolf corpses across the grounds, picked clean. Jane gives everyone in the party more than two hours of acid resistance.
Archie leads the party to the entrance. As they pick their way through the devastation, the see a live wolf, covered in burn scars and gouges, watching them warily from off to the right. The party briefly discusses using wild empathy on the wolf, but to what end, they can’t determine. Jane recommends Archie simply put the injured animal out of its misery. His first shot goes wide, but the second seems as though it should kill the wolf. It bounces off however, and the party barely has time for curiosity at this effect when the wolf transforms into the huge and terrifying form of the dragon, Illthain.
Scar-Eater dashes forward to confront the wyrm directly, but she flies up, screaming “ Dragotha take you!” in her native tongue. She swoops down upon the rest of the party, eminating a frightful presence that shakes the whole group to its core. They manage to maintain control of themselves, but Tyrrell and Jane are not so lucky when it comes to the foul chemical gas she breathes upon all of them as well. Jane, who is immune to venom, is still slowed, along with the rogue.
But not for long, as Long Fist has handily prepared remove paralysis and immediately casts it upon his slowed allies. Jane quickly casts owl’s wisdom on herself, and also activates her strand of prayer beads, all in an effort to make her maximized spells more difficult for the dragon to resist. Riddle gives the party blessings of fervor that they can use to choose a benefit each round of the fight. Tyrrell shrugs off Illthain’s poisonous breath and fires a dragonsbane bolt at her, but misses.
With aid from Riddle’s blessings, Archie looses five dragonsbane arrows at the dragon, dealing a ridiculous amount of damage to her, and definitely attracting her attention. Scar-Eater slams her with a ray of enfeeblement just before she moves in on Archie and takes a big bite out of his face. It seems Webb’s request that Archie return with not-quite-so-innocent-and-acid-free a complexion will be fulfilled.
Long Fist moves in to absorb some of Illthain’s attention from Archie, and is bitten and tripped for his efforts. He tries to stab her with a smitey spear, but misses. Jane attempts to faerie fire Illthain, but fails, and follows up with a mighty flame strike. Even though Illthain saves for half the damage, she still takes a heck of a wallop of the fiery and divine variety – especially when Riddle follows up with a flame strike of his own. Tyrrell reloads and tries another bolt, but misses again.
Archie, denying Illthain any free shots as he fires from directly beside her, looses another five arrows at her. She howls with misery and frustration. A bite and two claws later, Archie drops to the ground. Riddle immediately closes his wounds, saving the archer from instant death. Meanwhile, Illthain turns her attention to the next closest target, the prone half-ogre with the spear. With her remaining attacks she renders Long Fist unconscious and bleeding.
Jane spends an orison to stabilize Archie and then summons a ten-foot stalagmite from the earth to skewer Illthain and end the dragon’s reign of terror.
The party hurries to bring Archie and Long Fist back to consciousness, and Riddle attempts to speak with Illthain’s corpse. Her powerful soul resists the first attempt, but not the second. “Who are you working with?” he asks.
The corpse hisses, “I serve Dragotha.”
“What did you hope to accomplish?” Riddle continues.
“Your destruction,” she replies (of course).
“Where else did you deposit your Kyuss eggs?” he asks.
“Across the region,” she says.
“What specific dangers await us in the Cairn behind you?” he asks, and she replies, “I have no idea,” but she does confirm, in the final response, that Allustan awaits within.
Jane tells the others that she can use the dragon’s corpse to create a map to places that Illthain deemed most valuable, but she needs some materials like inks and powdered metals. She removes one of Illthain’s wings to use as a surface for the map, and the party also cuts off her head for delivery to Ermaldon Webb. Riddle and Archie teleport to Greyhawk to deliver it immediately.
Lt. Archie Forrest and the Whoreson stride into the offices of Foreign Minister Ermaldon Webb with a black dragon’s head the size of a small horse. After collecting his wit from a near fainting spell, Webb’s assistant Keithan Irvine ushers the young men into the Minister’s office. Severe and stoic as usual, Webb actually manages to let some begrudging admiration shine through as he sees that Forrest has indeed returned, as promised, “with scaly head in tow” and a bevy of new scars to “grizzle up that boyish countenance.”
Keeping his end of the bargain, Webb agrees to meet with the Lizardfolk on neutral ground, at a time and place of their choosing, to discuss the possibility of a permanent peace treaty. Archie offers to broker the meeting, and says he would like to bring Illthain’s head with him when he approaches the lizardfolk, but tells Webb it will have to wait while they are still pursuing the source of the contagion.
At that, Webb touches back on the concerns about this dangerous contagion threatening to spread through the region. “You continue to investigate, I assume. Though, without an official commission to do so. Consider yourself temporarily reassigned, Captain, to this situation surrounding this contagion. And let me know whether I should be calling the other Ministries in on this situation.”
“And tell me about your involvement in the mess over at the Arena. What the holy hells, Captain?”
Archie says, “Raknian was attempting to spread the contagion throughout Grey Hawk. We went undercover in order to expose his complicity. But with him out of the picture, I would say that with some repairs or better yet, razing and rebuilding a new better arena would be an unbelievable opportunity for someone.”
Upon their return, the party heads into the Whispering Cairn. They find that one of the previously blocked passages has been opened, probably by Allustan himself. Behind it is a portal. The party decides to check out the rest of the Cairn first before using the portal, but find that nothing has changed since they were last there a couple of months earlier.
Riddle is the first through the portal, and he is greeted by a cacophanous screaming sound, thunderously loud and high-pitched. He can tell it will make spellcasting difficult. Long Fist follows. The hall they stand in slopes sharply down towards an opening at the opposite end. Riddle is suddenly belted in the chest by something he cannot see. Riddle can feel a second swing come at him, but miss, and then Long Fist is hit twice. He swings out but misses. Riddle fires off a storm bolt and senses something in the hall taking damage. Scar-Eater and Jane step through, as Riddle and Long Fist continue getting pummeled, and Long Fist steps back to warn the two party members still in the Cairn. Eventually everyone gets back in the hallway and Riddle is able to give Archie true seeing, but while the party defeats the invisible stalker squad, they begin their adventure through the party considerably worse for wear, with resources dwindling.
Tyrrell sees what appeares to be a hall much larger than the spread of light from Scar-Eater’s dancing lights and a couple of large sculpture-type things that look like massive piles of artistically arranged longswords.
Pointy ends out, of course.